When Wolfgang Rihm composed the 'Fragmenta Passionis', in 1968, this 16-year old artist was already a ‘compositional force’ that seemed beyond any doubt in terms of critical consciousness. Two further compositions, the 'Sieben Passions-texte' of 2001-06 and the major half-hour-long work 'Astralis' of 2001, feature on the present recording alongside the early choral work. If one looks for a common compositional language, then these three works are linked above all by their expressive and diverse treatment of the possibilities of the human voice and at the same time by their reflection on traditional forms and genres of musical history. The 'Fragmenta Passionis' are, in fact, motets such as have been written ever since Machaut in the 14th century, by Guillaume Dufay and Johannes Ockeghem in the 15th and perhaps an anachronism by 1968!
Rihm's early work, combining contemporary techniques with the emotional volatility of Mahler and of Schoenberg's early expressionist period, was regarded by many as a revolt against the avant-garde generation of Boulez, Stockhausen (with whom he studied in 1972–73), and others, and led to a large number of commissions in the following years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s his name was associated with the movement called New Simplicity. His work still continues to plough expressionist furrows, though the influence of Luigi Nono, Helmut Lachenmann and Morton Feldman, amongst others, has affected his style significantly.